I used my Apple Watch to track a 10-mile ebike workout — what I learned

Apple Watch Ultra for cycling
(Image credit: Future)

While riding an electric bike can be a fast and efficient way to get where you need to go, it can also be a workout. If you enjoy cycling for exercise like I do, you might be wondering how the quality of workout compares when you use an ebike instead of a regular bike.

I mean, at least I wanted to know. I’ve been testing out the Priority E-Coast beach cruiser for how it fares in sandy locales like my coastal Long Island town. But I’ve also used it for my weekly Sunday bike workout — an established route just around 10 miles long that usually takes me about an hour to complete, according to my Apple Watch

But riding an e-bike with assistive gears and a zippy throttle, it takes less effort to move. In order to properly credit activity, Apple actually modified the Apple Watch’s cycling algorithm to detect when a user is riding an ebike. Paired with the other best Apple Watch biking features, the smartwatch is more than capable of tracking ebike rides. 

Still, there are some things you might want to consider when using your Apple Watch to track ebike workouts. Here are the biggest differences from my experience.

I traveled farther

With my ebike’s range of gears, I rode about two miles/hour faster with every increased level. I didn’t necessarily need to ride more quickly than normal, but I wanted to explore ways to leverage the bike for my workout.

This included riding farther down a straightaway than I usually do before turning around. With the help of the throttle, I sped down the road at least half a mile longer than my regular route. This added half a mile once I switched directions, too.

So, I can’t say it surprised me when my Apple Watch displayed a “Longest Cycling Workout” badge at the end of the ride. I traveled nearly 11 miles compared to my usual 10. Being able to go farther in the same amount of time might inspire me to explore new areas while biking more often.

I burned fewer calories

Although I got more distance under my belt, I used the ebike’s help to do so. This meant I didn’t work as hard as I would have on my non-electric bike.

That said, I did turn the bike’s gears off periodically throughout the ride. I wanted to feel like I completed a real workout at the end, after all. It took me a couple of miles to find a rhythm, but eventually I settled on using the boost for uphill bouts, while ditching assistance for flatter roads.

Yet when I ended my workout on my Apple Watch, I saw I burned fewer calories than normally do on my weekly bike ride. I only burned about 250 calories in an hour. Since I have all my workout history saved in my Fitness app, I could see that I burned nearly 350 calories on the last hour-long outdoor ride I completed. That’s a pretty significant difference and something I’ll need to keep in mind when choosing which bike to use based on my desired effort output on a given day. 

I had tons of fun

Even if riding an ebike doesn’t produce as effective a workout as riding a normal bike, it still makes moving fun. Between speeding down open roads, experimenting with the different gears and letting the wind blow around my helmeted hair, I can't deny that ebike riding is more entertaining than regular cycling.

I’m not the type who needs motivation to go for a bike ride (I’d take it any day over a run), but I imagine that an ebike could make it less intimidating for someone to close their Apple Watch rings. Check out our guide to the best budget electric bikes if that sounds like something you might enjoy.

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Kate Kozuch

Kate Kozuch is the managing editor of social and video at Tom’s Guide. She covers smartwatches, TVs and audio devices, too. Kate appears on Fox News to talk tech trends and runs the Tom's Guide TikTok account, which you should be following. When she’s not filming tech videos, you can find her taking up a new sport, mastering the NYT Crossword or channeling her inner celebrity chef.